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We've got a battle in the desert tonight as the Oilers and Golden Knights square off for Game 2. The home team defended its turf with a 6-4 win in Game 1, and looked good doing it. The Knights know the Oilers well since they clash in the Pacific Division. They outshot the Oilers by a 34-27 tally. Leon Draisaitl scored the first of his four goals in the game at around the four-minute mark of the first period, but the Knights struck back with an Ivan Barbashev goal less than 60 seconds later. They put two more on the board and seemed poised to take a 3-1 lead into intermission before Draisaitl got his second with just 11 seconds left on the clock. The second period was scoreless, but the third started with fireworks. Draisaitl finished his hat trick just 1:35 into the final frame, but Barbashev put the Knights back ahead 61 seconds later, and then Chandler Stephenson made it a two-goal lead under a minute after that. Draisaitl cut the lead to one with his fourth of the night with just over 10 minutes remaining, but the Oilers couldn't claw all the way back and Jack Eichel sealed it with an empty netter. I'm sweating just writing about that action!
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That loss was the Oilers' first regulation loss since March 11, while it was the Knights' fifth-straight victory of the postseason. Both of these teams will be tough to win two games in a row against, as I don't see either losing two straight in an easy fashion. Edmonton won the season series with Vegas 3-1, with two of those wins coming in desert. Game 1s for whatever reason have not been too kind to the Oilers since their last such win came back in 2017's second round against the Ducks. I think Jay Woodcroft gets the boys to bounce back in Game 2 to tie the series up tonight.
Oilers ML -125
The Oilers need their depth scoring to kick into gear. The bulk of their points have come from Draisaitl, Connor McDavid and Evan Bouchard. I feel it's only a matter of time before someone outside that mix gets a big goal, kind of like Kailer Yamamoto's game-winner in Game 6 to send the Kings packing in the first round. Keep an eye on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins in this one. He scored 104 points in the regular season and has just four assists in the playoffs so far, so he's gotta get going and there's no better time than a road game in the postseason against a division rival. Evander Kane is also due for a big goal in a big moment, something he's been able to muster for the Oilers in the past two postseasons.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (EDM) over 0.5 points -220
Evander Kane (EDM) anytime goalscorer +160
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The Knights won't go down without a fight, though, and they've got some players who know how to win in the playoffs. Reilly Smith is one of those guys. He's always in the fray and plays playoff hockey no matter what day it is. He only had one shot on goal in the first game despite playing the fourth-most minutes of any Vegas forward, and he's usually a shots machine. And while Barbashev popped off for two goals in Game 1, I don't think he gets back on the scoresheet again tonight. He had three points in the first round against the Jets, but had two games with zero points.
Reilly Smith (VGK) over 2.5 shots on goal +135
Ivan Barbashev (VGK) under 0.5 points -155